By:  Karenann Smith


     It is no wonder only 7 out of every 100 households in the United States has a pet bird.  People purchase them on impulse, unaware of the lifetime commitment these beautiful creatures demand.   In order to fulfill the human/avian relationship, all potential buyers must do adequate research and consider every important factor such as species, size, affordability, noise tolerance, and spare time for devotion before he or she is ready to begin the journey of owning a pet bird.  A lifetime of discovery and commitment, fulfilled with years of delight with your new avian companion, is what the potential bird owner can expect.

Parrots are not domesticated “dogs with feathers”, nor are they “feathered kittens”.  They are majestic creatures with wings that require a lifetime of care.  There are several ways in which adding a parrot to a home will impact the potential owner.   The initial purchase, $20 for a small finch to $10,000 for a large macaw, alone is the first major factor to consider.  A healthy parrot has a large appetite so the cost of food is important.  You cannot just buy a large bag of birdseed for exotic birds because parrots require a well-balanced buffet of nutritional foods including vegetables, fruits and a variety of nuts. A minimal amount of approximately $2.00 per day may not be significant for a cost of feeding, but it is a daily regimen to take note of.  Housing does not need to be elaborate or ornate, but each specific species requires the largest most suitable cage its owner can afford. Small birds, such as a cockatiel, are content in an 18 inch x 18 inch cage which can start in the price range of $50.00.  The large majestic macaws require extra large 5 foot by 6 foot indestructible cages which can range in price from $800 to thousands of dollars.

For all parrots like humans, an ounce of prevention goes a long way. There is no reason to expect high cost avian veterinarian bills, but there is no reason to assume you will never have them.  All birds hide signs of illness due to their instilled instincts from the wild.  If they appear sick, they fall prey to predators.  Prevention and annual physicals are strongly recommended because early detection can mean the difference between life and death.  An estimate of $300.00 should be put into the budget per year for basic routine healthcare.

The household poses a health hazard to exotic birds.  Every home must be bird proofed to ensure the health and well being of the bird.  The kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house for a bird.  Dangers include open pots of boiling water, hot ovens, and cooking fumes.  Nonstick cookware is coated with a substance called Teflon.  When nonstick cookware is overheated, birds in areas close to the kitchen can die very quickly after breathing the fumes.  Air quality is the next health factor to consider.  Many of the scented products that we use today to make our homes smell pleasant can be less pleasant for our birds.  These scents can cause respiratory distress in birds. Take into consideration that a small canary takes up to 100 breathes per minute.  Humans breathe at the rate of 12 to 16 breaths per minute.  Aerosol products alone pose a serious threat to

parrots if proper ventilation is not used.  Parrots are uncanny in their ability to find trouble and will chew on almost anything that looks interesting especially within the

range of their cage.   All caring bird owners must remain vigilant and well informed regarding the well being of pet birds and all the dangers that may be present in their homes.

Consequently, it is not easy living with a parrot. As they mature, they may go through developmental stages similar to those of humans.  Hormones rage just like those of humans.  Another consideration is the lifespan of these birds.   A question that must be asked is “Will the bird outlive the owner or will the owner outlive the bird?”  Take into consideration that the smallest bird, the cockatiel, has a lifespan of 20 years, whereas, the largest of the exotic birds, the macaw, can live up to or beyond 80 years.  Prospective bird owners must rationalize cost and expectations of commitment to find the right species to fulfill the human/avian relationship. Due to the lack of adequate research and unexpected expenses, avian rescues worldwide are caring for abandoned birds.  Daily nutrition is a must, proper avian veterinary care is required yearly, and time consuming maintenance is necessitated.  All potential bird owners must evaluate their lifestyles and honestly look at their time restraints and financial budget before the purchase of a bird is considered.   All these factors must seriously be looked at before anyone can seriously consider bringing an avian companion into his or her home.

Parrots provide life long delightful company for their owners, but while the avian/human bond is a rewarding experience, not everyone can own an exotic bird.    What might be right for one person may not be right for another.  If a person wants a bird

because it is beautiful, then pictures of beautiful birds would work better than bringing a live bird into the home.  If a person wants a parrot because they can talk, then perhaps it’s best to buy a radio.  If a person is a neat freak, then be warned, birds are extremely messy.  Scraping food off the walls gets old, and cleaning the floor daily gets tiring.  If a person is already busy, then seriously consider a tiny finch or canary.  If noise is a bother, then take into consideration that all birds make some kind of noise.   Exotic birds are not domestic pets; they are a lifetime commitment with so many factors to consider.  If you have any doubts, then an exotic bird is not the pet for you.